Designers, developers, thinkers & tinkerers

We are Ascender Studios. We are an independent studio of designers, developers, thinkers & tinkerers who take pride in everything we do.

At Ascender, we focus on building partnership-driven relationships while fast tracking your smart ideas to make them a reality.

No matter the vertical - healthcare, education, non-profit, retail or real estate - we hold the skills, which are ever evolving, to turn your ideas into engaging experiences. Our background imparts understanding across the broad business world - from the intricacies of helping start-ups seed to the tape of highly matrixed organizations. Take a look at our capabilities and see how we can help.

 
Undisclosed
 
$100 - $149 / hr
 
2 - 9
 Founded
2017
Ascender Studios New York, NY
United States

Portfolio

Key clients: 

Quest Diagnostics, Adweek, American Ballet Theatre, Tribeca Film Festival, Biogen, Biopharm Communications, FTI Consulting, Infor Global, Cult Health, McCann, Havas, Agenda, Ruckus Marketing, Atavus, GuruSnaps, Ramapo College, Optic Gaming

Reviews

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Web Design and Dev for Creative Agency

“The quality of work and dedication to meet deadlines is what keeps us coming back to them.”

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
2015 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

Ascender Studios provides ongoing front and backend development in Wordpress and Drupal for multiple projects, as well as custom code creation outside of content management systems.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
New York, New York
Emily Simmons
Account Director, Agenda
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Ascender Studio’s work on one website has garnered a 3% increase in visits, a 21% increase in time spent on a page, and overall improved customer engagement. They are efficient with assigning resources to projects, and their project management is effective.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I’m an account director at Agenda, a creative agency located in New York City.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Ascender Studios?

We’ve engaged them on a number of projects for which we needed backend development. We have multiple clients we’ve put together digital projects for, including website builds, providing annual reports, content hubs, and e-commerce platforms. We have frontend resources that we use locally, then Ascender Studios helps with the backend. We’ve found them to be a great partner in meeting our client needs.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Ascender has done a lot of work for us with front and backend development. We work with them on WordPress and other CMSs like Drupal. They’ve also built custom code for us outside of CMSs.

What is the team dynamic?

We typically work with 1-5 developers at a time. We engage them with the end-clients directly, so Ascender Studios is able to hear requests firsthand. The quality of work and dedication to meet deadlines is whats keeps us coming back to them.

How did you come to work with Ascender Studios?

We’ve been working with them for a couple years. I believe they were found by another Agenda employee. We had a good experience with Ascender Stuidos from the beginning, so we continued to collaborate with them because the quality of their work is so good. They have a great team who understands our requests.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working with Ascender Studios in December 2015, and the relationship is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

We get a lot of good qualitative feedback from clients and customers. Since we have a joint design and development collaboration, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the comments are the merit of one group or the other. We’ve received feedback on how sites function and on user experience.

In terms of quantitative data, the most recent website we built with Ascender Studios has seen a 3% increase in visits, and a 21% increase in time spent on a page. There has been improved measurements around how customers are engaging with the website.

How did Ascender Studios perform from a project management standpoint?

They use Active Collab, which is a project management and tracking tool. We have conversations and assign tasks there as we’re working through testing and kicking off projects. We also have frequent calls to make sure we’re on track, and Ascender Studios is quick to respond to emails or on Active Collab. They’re always available to make sure everything is going as planned.

What did you find most impressive about them?

They do a very good job of aligning resources based on the type of project we have. Ascender Studios will identify the right developer for a project, and they do a great job of transferring knowledge. After the kickoff call, the project managers do a great job of telling developers what’s needed and what the next steps are. There’s no need to have another talk with the developers themselves because of this. They’ve also done a great job of meeting deadlines and making sure the quality of work being handed over is adequate. This attitude matches our core values well, and our developers work well with theirs.

Are there any areas they could improve?

I have no suggestions for improvement.

5.0
Overall Score Ascender is a great partner, and we’re happy to work with them.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I don’t want them to work with other people.

Web Dev for Clinical Laboratory Services Company

“I’ve never been unhappy with their response time and services, so I’ve seen no reason to look elsewhere.”

Quality: 
4.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.0
Willing to refer: 
4.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
2011 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

After building the original platform using Ruby on Rails, Ascender continues to enhance the widely-used site, which focuses on clinical education and laboratory services.

The Reviewer
 
10,000+ Employees
 
Madison, New Jersey
Program Manager, Clinical Laboratory Services Company
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The number of unique visitors to the site has steadily increased year over year, which is attributed to Ascender’s work on the platform. The team is highly responsive and good at follow-through. Their project management is outstanding, as evident in their consistently punctual delivery.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I am a program manager for education for a large medical laboratory.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Ascender Studios?

We needed help with web development.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Andy Milk, their co-founder, developed our clinical education center site and continues to make enhancements on it. He’s currently doing these activities within his role at Ascender. The basis for the website is Ruby on Rails.

What is the team dynamic?

We’ve had anywhere from 2–6 people working on different parts of the program, depending on what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

How did you come to work with Ascender Studios?

We’ve been working with them long before they were called Ascender. They predated my tenure at the company.

How much have you invested with them?

The project is ongoing, so we have monthly and yearly costs. Depending on the kinds of enhancements we’re making, it can run anywhere from a monthly fee of $3,000 to upwards of $6,000–$7,000. I don’t want to provide an overall estimate.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working with Ascender in the fall of 2011. I’ve never been unhappy with their response time and services, so I’ve seen no reason to look elsewhere or make any changes.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

One of the things we look at is the number of unique visitors. Year after year, those numbers have continued to go up.

How did Ascender Studios perform from a project management standpoint?

Ascender has delivered on time and within our budget. Ascender has done a good job of keeping deadlines. If we do have a delay, we will be informed. The communication is pretty good, which is key, especially when working across the United States from one another. We used to use Basecamp, but have moved to Active Collab. It seems to be pretty effective.

What did you find most impressive about them?

Ascender is the only company I’ve worked with on this type of project, so I can’t compare them to anyone else.

Are there any areas they could improve?

No.

4.0
Overall Score There’s room for improvement with any relationship, but Ascender has done a good job.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They don’t usually miss deadlines.
  • 4.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    I don’t have any comparison points, so I can’t give them a perfect rating.
  • 4.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    They’re responsive, and the follow-through is very good.
  • 4.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Web App Development for Public Benefits Platform

"[Ascender Studios] was very flexible in terms of working with us in ways that other places didn’t show."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
4.0
Cost: 
4.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$10,000 to $49,999
 
Oct. 2014 - Feb. 2015
Project summary: 

Ascender Studios developed a responsive web application for a platform that helps inform low-income families on government benefits. Technologies used included Ruby on Rails, MySQL and Javascript frameworks. 

The Reviewer
 
1-10 Employees
 
New York, New York
Daniel Beeby
CTO, Benefit Kitchen
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The web app received positive feedback from users who praised its design, functionality, and interactivity. Ascender Studios' project management, willingness, and flexibility throughout the project were appreciated. Prototyping, guidance, and timelines were cited as areas for improvement.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there

My name is Dan Beeby. I'm the CTO at Benefit Kitchen. It's an organization and an app that helps low-income families learn about 18 federal, state, and local benefits. It was designed as a web app first, and agencies can use it to help their clients learn about their eligibility for food stamps, child care, Medicaid, Obamacare, WIC, Home Energy Assistance, high-speed Internet, tax credits, and more.

We screen it to the dollar amount. We can do a detailed budget on what a family's situation looks like before and after. We have verticals in the non-profit space, in healthcare and we're also moving into government. We have city government representatives at the Brooklyn Borough President's office and Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District. We're licensing with a group called IHMS in Arizona to do screening for Medicaid patients so that they can really help families move up and out of poverty after they have a hospital encounter. We work with groups like the United Way in California and other states to help low-income families. Those are primarily the industries we're working in now: nonprofit, healthcare and government, but also expanding into retail.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Ascender Studios?

They developed a responsive web app. We built this app in 2014 with Andy's help. They were instrumental in broadening their horizons because they hadn't done a mobile app at that point. It was a very responsive interface that required new questions to appear based on the context of previous questions. For example, if you have two kids in your family, it will ask you first, "How many children do you have?" and then two entries for each child needs to come into the interface so that you can fill those two in. It grows or contracts based on your demographic and sort of family life situation.

Then, the clients do the screening and we have a really complicated dataset that we need to show them at the end. Ascender was a key player in helping us not only show benefit eligibility in a really clear, chunky way, both on a desktop screen and on a mobile device. It's the exact same interface. It folds up or folds out, depending on your screen size. And then, there’s other information, like budgetary info we needed to be able to show on different size devices.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

They did a good job of creating a very dynamic visual that plays on any size device. They developed a really innovative toggle to be able to switch back and forth between your before and after the situation on a small phone, or view the data side by side on a large screen.
 

What is the team dynamic?

I met with more than three people in terms of the coding, and I know at least two people worked on it in terms of design. The technologies we chose were Ruby on Rails because of ubiquity in the marketplace at the time and its flexibility to be able to do the things we needed to do with the app. They used MySQL databases and a lot of JavaScript frameworks, like jQuery.

 

How did you come to work with Ascender Studios?

At the time, we were really new to this space. I went and interviewed probably five development shops in Brooklyn. I think when you're shopping for someone like this, this is like a car-sized purchase. You want to shop around a little bit. I went to, as I said, four or five different shops and it just was a really good fit with Andy, his Midwestern sensibility, his ability to see the problem for what it is and be really flexible in terms of the solution. He was generous enough to do a profit-sharing situation in a place where he knew there probably wouldn't be a profit. He was able to provide flexibility in the price for us because we had an agreement to share profit. It hasn't come to fruition. The business model changed dramatically in the first six or eight months when we were doing the work that it just doesn't apply anymore.

But it shows that he was very willing to work with us in basically anyway. He was very flexible in terms of working with us in ways that other places didn’t show. It was also a small shop that fit us really well. Thinking back two and a half years ago to when we were shopping for these developers, I remember going into some fancy to scrappy firms, and it seemed like Ascender was right there in the middle. They were really good about keeping our scope really tight. They knew that the margins were going to be small for them.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

We get a lot of feedback. I think we're working in industries where generally, the interfaces that folks deal with were not designed in 2017. Everything looks like Windows 98 or Windows 95, and giving them something that's new and fresh and works on a phone, a tablet or a laptop surprises them often.

They love the design, and they love the interactivity and the way that it works the way that you think it should. A lot of the tools that they have to interact with on a daily basis, just don't. We get a lot of really positive feedback on the look and feel of the design and the flexibility of the tool. We're currently live in California, and New Jersey, and New York, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, and Arizona. When we look at an expansion, we're looking at the state level.

The way they developed the tool allows us to do things that are hyper-focused as well. We're going to be able to pitch it to big organizations like Starbucks, for example, that have employees who, in a lot of cases, are eligible for federal, and state, and local programs but also are available for corporate programs like smoking cessation, legal aid, or finding housing. Whatever benefits that they offer, we can get hyper-local, as well, thanks to the way that they built it. The flexibility that we have with the tool allows us to expand or contract in different markets very well. The design is fresh and people love it. And the technical back end allows us to do those niche markets too.

 

How did Ascender perform from a project management standpoint?

We used Taiga or Basecamp. They were good at project management. if we're moving toward criticisms, we focused way too much on design too early. We should've had flexible, unpainted prototypes far earlier than we did. And so in terms of the project management stuff, the needs assessment and the wireframing was too long. We should've just gone into the minimally viable products much earlier than we did.

 

What did you find most impressive about Ascender Studios?

This is in the line between praise and criticism. Andy was very willing to entertain the idea of working with a technical person in our team to do actual development. Because a lot of the codebase that we had in place was JavaScript. He was developing in the salt water of Ruby on Rails, and I was developing in the freshwater of JavaScript. We were able to make the two areas meet really well in JavaScript and Ruby on Rails.

 

Are there any areas Ascender Studios could improve?

The way that I ended up having to work with to push code to stage and redeploy every time I made a single change because I couldn't get a system setup myself. I think with a little, tiny bit of their assistance, I would have been able to do that. Because when I finally got the codebase towards the end of the project, I was able to do that and be up and running within a couple days on my own.

The guidance part really didn't come through and that was a little bit of a disappointment. On a promise, I would say 75% was delivered and in a lot of these projects that's all you can expect.

I think the development timeline was getting a little tight at the end because we spent too much time on the design early on. I really wanted to be in the space one or two days a week actually working on the project and that didn't materialize until the project was almost over. We could have gotten so much more done, and realized little technical errors that cropped up after we were essentially finished long before we got to that point. So those two things, I think, sort of came out in the conversation.

4.5
Overall Score I think that the overall experience was really good. He was dealing with non-business people in a pretty cutthroat business environment and did a really good job sort of bringing us up into that atmosphere.
  • 4.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    Andy was a taskmaster but he was not offensive about it at all. He was a very gentle, keep-on-task type person.
  • 4.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They promised a lot, and they delivered a lot. We had built, I think, a little bit too much of the business practice into the tool early on, and I think that lead to part of the over-design. But I would say 4 in terms of value.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    Really high-quality service. Really good communicators
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer